Algeria: The Bandit King To The Rescue

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February 25, 2008: One group of al Qaeda terrorists was found working with a smuggling gang along the Tunisian border. This crew recently lured eight border police out one night with a false tip, ambushed and killed the cops, and stole their two vehicles. The 17 attackers were tracked down and killed over the next few days.

Over the next three years, the police force will add 45,000 more men, creating a national force of 200,000. While ostensibly to deal with Islamic terrorists, a much greater threat is civil disorder from an increasingly young and unemployed population. The corruption in the government, which refuses to allow free elections to replace it, continues to anger the population. Algerians are done with Islamic radicals, who proved better at killing civilians who disagreed with them, than in taking on the government or solving economic problems. While there are many political parties pushing for peaceful change, the government is preparing for a more violent reaction.

The Islamic terrorists are less of a problem than the smuggling gangs, and other criminal groups, but the terrorists attract far more media attention. That may change, because the new leader of al Qaeda in Algeria is believed to be Yahia Abou Ammar, whose background involves links with smuggling gangs along the Mali and Niger border. Ammar is replacing Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is blamed for the many sloppy terror attacks, as well as the growing number of al Qaeda members getting caught. The smuggling gangs have been around for centuries, and have a Robin Hood aura about them. The smugglers are also seen as efficient, and deadly when they have to be. Ammar is expected to exploit that reputation in an attempt to rehabilitate al Qaeda's reputation. The terrorists need the help, as they are doing much less well in neighboring Morocco and Tunisia. Al Qaeda needs a big win to restore its position in the Islamic world. The defeat in Iraq, and the rise of Iranian backed terrorists like Hamas (in Gaza) and Hizbollah (in Lebanon) is more bad news. Al Qaeda considers the Iranians as heretics (because they practice Shia Islam, rather than the mainstream Sunni practices). Iran has gone out of its way to establish good diplomatic relations with Algeria. This is a further snub to the down, but not out, al Qaeda. Meanwhile, U.S. embassy staff in Algeria are warned to be careful, as there are fears that al Qaeda might be planning to kidnap an American embassy official. That would be the kind of high profile stunt terrorists aim for.

Islamic terrorists from Algeria, and the rest of North Africa, have been showing up all over the world. But some of these exiles are still involved with terrorism back in Algerian. One such fellow, a resident of Britain, was arrested in Algeria for providing the imported car used in the car bombing of a police station.

In early February, the government told Russia that it was cancelling the purchase of 28 MiG-29 fighters, and returning the ones already delivered. There were quality issues, and the fact that these aircraft were assembled from old parts. The MiG-29 has been in service for 25 years, but stocks of Cold War era spare parts are still around, and apparently put to use to build the Algerian aircraft. These are supposed to be "new," but some of their components are not and the Algerians may have a better offer from France for more modern Rafael fighters. France is seen as a more useful ally than Russia, and France wants to sell some of those Rafaels real bad.

 

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